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Why Healthy Eating Doesn’t Need to Be Boring

Season 5, Episode 5  | February 24, 2020

One of the most powerful tools we have for getting and staying healthy is the food we eat to nourish our bodies. In this episode, we cover the reasons nutrition is challenging, tips for meal planning and grocery shopping, and why there is no right or wrong way of eating — it’s all about finding balance and discovering what works for your body. Our guests are Julie Brown, RD, program manager for nutrition and assessments at Life Time, and Ryan Dodge, executive chef for Life Time’s LifeCafe nationwide.

Smoothie With Banana And Chia Seeds.

01:05

Our guests this episode are Julie Brown and Ryan Dodge. Brown is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and the nutrition and assessments program manager at Life Time. Dodge is the executive chef for Life Time’s LifeCafe® nationwide and is responsible for crafting a menu filled with healthy, wholesome ingredients.

01:40

Why is nutrition so challenging for people?

02:49

One of the reasons that nutrition is challenging is because there’s so much information out there and the advice is frequently changing — and often contradictory.

04:55

At one point in time, Ancel Keys came up with the concept that fat caused cholesterol issues and heart disease, and therefore should be avoided. We now know this is not accurate. We also created a food pyramid based on foods that were easy to grow and monetize but weren’t the best for our bodies.

05:58

The culture is beginning to shift, in that we’re starting to understand the importance of whole foods over processed, convenient, or junk foods. But the accessibility of better options needs to improve as well.

06:29

Food waste is huge in the United States. There are a lot of fresh, whole foods going to waste. Their shorter shelf life in comparison to packaged food may be one reason people don’t buy them.

10:15

One of the most important tools we have to fuel a healthy way of life is the food we choose to eat to nourish our bodies. It’s challenging when many restaurants aren’t necessarily thinking about what’s nutritious, but rather what tastes good. Dodge talks about his experience with this while working at Michelin-star restaurants.

11:48

As with many other aspects of health, when it comes to food, it’s important to not just look at the aesthetics, but to also focus on the deeper health components.

12:38

Dodge talks about how he approaches menu planning for LifeCafe. He focuses on balancing micronutrients and appropriate portion sizes while still maintaining a great flavor profile and presentation — and has all items vetted through nutrition and fitness professionals.

15:38

A meal is a sensory experience. A lot of people forget that digestion starts in the mouth and the process of chewing your food is a very important component of that. Ideally, we want to sit down for meals, smelling and tasting the food, and really taking the time to pause and appreciate the meal.

18:16

When you take a greater interest in what you’re eating, it can become less of a chore and more of something you look forward to — or even a stress-relief tactic.

18:51

Why is it such a struggle to reduce our sugar intake?

21:51

It can be hard to know how much sugar is actually in the foods and drinks we’re consuming.

25:56

A lot of people perceive healthy eating as being boring — but it doesn’t need to be. And it doesn’t have to be hard either.

26:47

Brown offers some tips around buying and using fresh produce.

28:08

Meal planning is a big issue for many people, but it’s a key skill for eating more nutritious foods. Brown offers her advice for how we can make it simpler as well as tips for grocery shopping.

32:33

Dodge offers some of his meal-prep hacks, including taking advantage of pre-prepared foods.

35:25

Cooking takes some trial and error to learn what you like and how you prefer certain foods.

36:29

Brown offers a tip for getting more vegetables into her day with very little preparation or cooking required.

38:32

Frozen vegetables oftentimes have more nutrients than fresh ones, as they’re flash-frozen at their peak.

40:40

Dodge and Brown discuss how they each approach meal prepping.

44:45

If we strive to maintain healthy food habits 80 percent of the time, that leaves room 20 percent of the time for balance.

46:18

Variety in your diet is important for many reasons, one being that without it we can put ourselves at risk of developing a food sensitivity. Just because a food is “healthy,” doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for your individual body.

49:51

The non-negotiable, healthy-living habits that Brown and Dodge incorporate into their daily lives.

Transcript: Why Healthy Eating Doesn’t Need to Be Boring

Season 5, Episode 5  | February 24, 2020

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, the signature program lead for Life Time’s Alpha program. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we are working towards, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode we’ll cover the foundational elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, health issues like sleep and stress management, and mindfulness and community.

David Freeman

And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

On today’s episode we will be talking about nutrition and healthy eating habits. With nutrition advice constantly changing it can be difficult to know how to best nourish ourselves. Today we will touch on nutrition and healthy eating and the significant affects they have on our health and wellbeing.

Jaime Martin

Our guests today are Julie Brown and Ryan Dodge. Julie is a registered dietitian and personal trainer who has worked for Life Time for eight years. In her current role as program manager of nutritional assessments she aims to optimize services and products that help members and team members better understand their metabolism and feel their best.

David Freeman

Ryan Dodge is the creative force behind Life Time’s LifeCafe’s nationwide. As executive chef he spearheads Life Time’s “if it’s here, it’s healthy” philosophy, focused on menu offerings that are based on healthy, wholesome ingredients.

So, super excited to have you guys here today. So many of our listeners are going to be excited about this one because it talks about something that a lot of individuals struggle with. Let’s talk about nutrition and within nutrition why is it so challenging for people?

Julie Brown

Well I just got to thank you guys first of all for having me here. This is pretty exciting. I’m glad to be spending some time with you and sharing some information that hopefully some folks will find helpful. And you hit it — nutrition is a challenging thing. It’s not an easy topic and unfortunately, we almost have too much information now because we’ve made it so difficult for people to really isolate how to fuel their bodies effectively and I think at the onset of nutrition we have to remember that the reason that we eat is to fuel our bodies and that there’s not a right or wrong. There is just how much you can have and how often you can have it when it comes to choosing specific foods. So, I think starting with a mindset that there’s no food that’s bad. There’s nothing really inherently the wrong thing for you to do and coming at it with an open mindset to just learn new things I think is really important. So, yeah, nutrition is tough because there’s almost too much info out there.

Jaime Martin

We were talking . . . I mean we’ve talked in the past about how there’s so much information out there and the guidance is frequently changing. So, one of the goals of this episode is to really get into some of like the nuances of it. Like OK, is that true? I’ve read this headline out there that coffee is good for me, but then this other headline that says no, coffee is not good for me anymore. One of the reasons that it’s challenging is that our food culture is challenging and I’d love for you guys to speak to that.

Ryan Dodge

It’s really interesting that you bring that up. This article says this or this headline says that because we do have a lot of that inundation of information coming from different places and different outlets whether it be whoever owns it and whoever is behind it and whoever is encouraging it and whoever is getting paid from lobbyists or politicians because food is politics. So, I grew up in an environment where my mother was a cardio rehabilitator, so I grew up in that, right. My mom was getting people who had just had open heart cardiac surgery back on their feet and as you know that’s no small task, and at that time the conversation around nutrition and how are you going to keep your heart healthy was really, really something that was just kind of organically happening at that time, and there were thoughts along the lines of margarine over butter.

Julie Brown

Right.

Ryan Dodge

Right. Cereal versus like they were starting to say, hey, don’t eat eggs. Don’t eat eggs because eggs are bad for the heart.

Jaime Martin

Eggs are bad for your cholesterol but cereal is good for it. So . . .

Ryan Dodge

So, it’s incredible. At that time what she was, the propaganda or and they thought that they were doing the right thing for people and by people, which is extremely important is that the intention to help was there but the education and the science didn’t really support a lot of those things which was interesting for me as I’ve grown older. It was like mom, no more margarine in the fridge. Come on. Like we’re going to go and get some butter.

Julie Brown

Not to go down like a too deep of a rabbit hole, I mean we can kind of blame Ancel Keys for a lot of that. He came up with this concept that fat is inherently what’s causing all of these problems with cholesterol and ultimately heart disease to kind of tie into what you were talking about and as a society we crafted an entire style of eating that was delivered originally many, many moons ago as a food guide pyramid and unfortunately it’s a foundation of things that were a part of, like I said, our commodity crops, things that we were able to grow and monetize over time, and it wasn’t necessarily set up with our health in mind for the long haul. As research has changed and we’ve learned more about how the body actually responds to processed grains and consuming six to 11 servings of starches or processed grains in a day, we’re learning that’s not really the best way to set the foundation of our food intake.

Jaime Martin

Right. Well, and I think just the prevalence right now of processed and convenient and junk foods. I mean the economic factors are tied to that, socioeconomic factors tied to that but I think there has been a little bit of shift I think within the last three to five years really about this shift from, this awareness just about from processed to OK, what’s the case for these whole foods, for these other, for whole fats versus low fats and all these things. So, the culture is beginning to change but how stuff is accessible to people needs to change as well.

Ryan Dodge

Well, there’s amounts. There’s only so much and it’s interesting and it’s one of the places where I have an extreme amount of passion but it also is painful and frustrating when you think of grocers and big grocers, and we were just recently at a farmers’ market and we talked about it. There’s this thing called ugly fruit and ugly vegetable where certain visual fruits and vegetables, those aesthetics make the display and what happens with the other commodity, and you can go back and you can track farming and farmers and what happens and it’s truly there’s an abundance of that out there and some of it doesn’t make it in front of anyone unfortunately because of the bureaucracy involved in some of the blue tape that’s been laid down which is unfortunate because we’ve got a lot of hungry people and a lot of people that could utilize that product.

Julie Brown

It’s really sad to know that there are so many wonderful foods that are going to waste out there. I saw a documentary a while back and I think it said up to 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted.

Jaime Martin

Well, food waste is huge. We just did a story on this in Experience Life. I should find it and we’ll link to it.

Ryan Dodge

Food waste from people’s refrigerator?

Julie Brown

Oh, the whole cycle from the farm where it’s harvested, so harvesting byproduct, things that just doesn’t get picked up by the machinery, all the way to what you were talking about, what doesn’t go on shelves that maybe falls by the wayside because it’s not pretty enough or attractive enough to be purchased by a consumer to those of us who, I’m just as guilty as anybody to go, oh, I didn’t eat that in time or cooked that a week ago and we didn’t use it fast enough. Like unfortunately like I cringe every time that I toss something away but it’s something you go, OK, this is me and this is my one small impact, but multiply that by millions, billions of people and unfortunately, we’re just probably not doing enough yet to get people to nourish with the right types of foods and the right knowledge to help empower them to make a change.

Jaime Martin

Well, I think, OK, so, you’re saying the amount of food that goes to waste, I’d be curious to know — and I don’t have these statistics — about how much of that is fresh, whole foods, because and that’s probably why some people don’t buy them because they go to waste more quickly or with the convenience foods there’s a shelf life. It can sit there for a long time and we can go and grab it and it can live in our pantries or whatever but it’s often those foods that are boxed and all that, that are the least nutritious for us and offer the least amount of vitamins and minerals and all the things that we need to really nourish our bodies.

Ryan Dodge

Absolutely. Anything . . . it’s just like I work a lot with the produce and the vegetables and it’s an interesting thing as I educate the folks that I work with in the field. These fruits, vegetables that grow from the ground, that come from the vine, that come from the trees, I mean they’re drawing their nutrients, they’re drawing their life from that tree, that vine, the ground and once they’re either cut from the tree, the vine or the ground and once they’re cut or pulled or plucked or whatever it may be, they no longer have that life source and they start to essentially die, right. So, you see things that were once, like use a carrot for example. Once you see it was once . . . you pulled it and it had that snap, that trigger, that cellular structure, right. It goes through that stage of rigor mortis. So, it’s interesting when you think about when things are plucked and cut and pulled to when we finally get them in a lot of that food chain and how fresh they are, how many minerals, nutrients, all of those things that go into it are still available to us when we eat them, from the restaurant perspective, from the executive chef perspective, right.

In restaurants in the industry how often is it that restaurants are creating dishes that are nutritious and when you think about nutrition . . . like we’re having that conversation because we’re living that lifestyle and we understand that. I’m sitting here looking at David Freeman and I’m looking at this powerful being, right, but I know, right, when I go into any fitness facility across America that we have, right, our locations, our resorts, our destinations, that I walk around and I see the Alpha branding and I see the equipment and I see the people, the powerful imagery, I know that when it all boils down to it, the most powerful piece of equipment that I can have to fuel that healthy way of life that I’m trying to live is the fork and the things that I choose to put into my body from a nourishment.

It’s not about . . . I used to build meals at five-star, Michelin chateaus and we had all of those cheats, right. We had all of those satiating factors that we would play in the dishes. Yeah, we would give it the visual component. We would give it the sodium component, the cream. We would balance those things to satiate your palette so that you would want to be reaching for that glass of something that we would pair it with but we weren’t considerate of what was going into that, not only the processing of everything that we were doing, we weren’t taking into consideration the balance of the macro nutrient, the freshness, whether or not it was going to nourish. We just wanted to make sure it tasted good.

David Freeman

Listen to that real quick. I mean this sounds all too familiar. When we look at things from aesthetic standpoint, the same thing within just working out, the aesthetics, that quick fix versus actually diving into the deeper pieces, the health component versus just the aesthetic part. So, we’re driven by those aesthetics. That’s why those fruits and veggies that are actually still eatable, that we can actually eat and great for our body but they’re put into ugly fruit or put to the side and we have the shiny oranges or cucumbers, whatever they may be, out in the front and that’s what our society is driven towards is these aesthetics and these quick fixes. So, it’s ironic from the same standpoint as far as nutrition and preparation that it relates to exercise.

Jaime Martin

Absolutely. You mentioned there, chef Dodge, about how we’re thinking about the macronutrient balance and how I think it’s unique how you approach your menu planning and I think Julie, you speak to this as well, is like how when we think about planning our meals, as you plan a menu how do we think about that macronutrient breakdown in a different way than other places might, than other people might.

Ryan Dodge

Well, I’m fortunate and blessed to have people like Julie that I can work with and just have these discussions with and we can talk about these things. I know that one of the taglines or the menu we’ve always come up with is it’s kind of “chef crafted but trainer, nutritionist approved,” so there’s that. We vet that stuff out and I’ll let Julie speak to that component of it, however, I can and will say that the discipline that goes with the aesthetic, right, not only from the preparation and the plating and how we want to present whether it be that my own personal presentation to the way that the food presents, very much is the discipline and the discipline to get to the club, the discipline to get to go to the store to buy the whole foods, the discipline to know what it takes to get those things prepared. There’s a ton of discipline that goes into that.

Julie Brown

You kind of spoke about the origins of your career as a chef and the way that you used to think about food and how it’s shifted and now the focus out of your discipline, you still want that blended experience for somebody. I want there to be this great flavor profile. I want them to want to come have more but also the way that you think about it is a little bit different now, right. It’s I want to balance the macronutrients in this, make sure there’s enough vegetables present, the appropriate amount of protein for this portion or this servicing that somebody might purchase, and also make it look appealing because I think we forget sometimes that there is an emotional wellness component to appreciating the visual component of your food, the aroma of a well-cooked dish. We don’t stop and pause and do that. I mean we can’t get people to chew their food well enough let alone stop and smell it before they start eating, right. So, I think that that’s something that is really an important focus for a lot of people. If we’re getting back to the heart of nourishing well our bodies, it’s not just food. It’s the experience of food that’s really important and I think that kind of ties into what you were talking about.

Ryan Dodge

Well, I have an acute sensitivity to that being that I was in San Francisco when Yelps really started and started to take pictures of the food and you were like, oh, this is what we’re doing now, right, and now it’s very much so kind of a part of the culture. I don’t know if there’s more photos on those kinds of social platforms than there are of what people are eating and it’s you don’t get a second chance.

Jaime Martin

Well, this whole idea of this sensory experience. A meal covers a lot of our senses, right, the aromas, the visual appeal. It’s like how are we pausing, like you said, Julie, and being mindful about the experience of eating because there is something about even how we eat, the pace at which we eat, that affects how we digest it then. It’s a whole cycle that happens and you can probably speak to that as well but there is something about that too that we . . . it does make a difference.

Julie Brown

A lot of people forget that digestion starts in the mouth and chewing your food…I know it’s funny to think about it like that but it does. There is a very important component in your saliva called salivary amylase that actually starts to break down some of the bonds that are in starchy molecules and sugar and if that process doesn’t start correctly and you don’t actually chew and masticate your food enough, you’re already putting yourself at risk for hindered digestion as it continues to process down in your digestive tract. So, I think the act of actually sitting down and eating a meal is multifaceted. It’s hey, appreciate your food.

For those who want to say some thanks for where their food came from for varying reasons, they should take the time to do that. It should be a part of the gratitude that they show the earth, their personal higher power, whatever it is and take that time to actually appreciate the act of nourishing their body. Smell that food, taste that food, appreciate the people that you’re having the opportunity to sit down and enjoy that food with. I think there’s a massive lost art in the family dinner. That’s something that’s a huge value at my house.

We sit down and have family dinner and maybe once a week we even will sit around the coffee table and have dinner while we watch something that we all care about together but we do it together and that’s something that’s really important to us as a family. My little family unit really practices that and I think if we start to bring that back and remind people that the fact that our days are so rushed and so hurried, if you’re able to pause for even one of the points of your day where you stop to nourish yourself and actually appreciate that food, chew your food thoroughly and enjoy the act of eating, that actually takes an immense step in the right direction before you ever address any macronutrients.

Jaime Martin

Well, and that’s covering off on not just physical health, like this is good for your physical health to slow down and do this. It’s emotional, it’s social, it’s mental. So, I mean the meal, the act of eating a meal, we often think about like you said, what is eating? You’ve got to eat. It’s part of life.

Julie Brown

I have five minutes.

Jaime Martin

I have five minutes. I’m going to do this but when we slow down to do it it’s affecting us across many areas of our lives that we may not realize.

Julie Brown

And when you actually do take that time to appreciate that, you do take a greater interest in what you’re eating, the types of food that you’re making and cooking becomes less of a chore and more something that you start to enjoy and look forward to. For a lot of people cooking . . . I hear a lot of people say baking is a stress reliever for them and I want to help more people realize that cooking can be too but I think because our meals are associated with stress in our days or sitting down or stopping or spending time doing . . . or grocery shopping, whatever that might be, we kind of get this underlying concern about well, I don’t want to spend time on that. Yeah. Right. It becomes such an issue.

David Freeman

So, when we think of sugar and how it plays a role in our lives today across the board. I’ve got two little ones and I’m sure other people can relate as well. Why is it such a struggle to get rid of sugar?

Julie Brown

Where do we start? Oh my goodness. Sugar itself is a really tricky thing that can go straight to the hormone levels. To be fair, your body needs carbohydrates, which are made of some pretty primary sugar components, right, all the way down to glucose itself. So, when we talk about the need to fuel the body, yes, you need some naturally produced sugar sources in small forms or fashions to get you through your day because the brain thrives on sugar. It wants that. Now unfortunately in our modern-day society we realized that when we actually harvest pure sugar cane it makes us feel amazing. We love how it tastes. It’s very palatable. It pairs well with a lot of different things and it’s unfortunately very inexpensive to makes so it’s in everything and when something is tasty and semi inexpensive it becomes very difficult to say no to that.

So, combine the ease of access with your natural hormonal response with your body’s glucose levels, your blood sugar. It wants to stay steady but if you give it this rush of sugar it causes it to rise significantly and somewhat quickly your body comes down off of that hit of sugar and it unfortunately overcorrects in a lot of cases. You don’t go back to that baseline. You start to dip down below that baseline to where now you go, I need that sugar again. I need something to bring me just back up to level. Like you used the word addiction again, right, and it’s a hormonal response and unfortunately until we start to balance that out, get appropriate amounts of fiber in, get adequate sleep, manage our stress and our cortisol levels, it’s very difficult to get that in check and even for people who do have a strict detoxification protocol that really works to take sugar out, they have to take fruit out too which is sad because to truly get rid of that trigger to want sugar you almost have to remove all aspects of it, even the good ones.

So, again, I love it when people eat apples. I love when they eat grapes. I love when they eat berries. I think it’s awesome. But if you’re having a true issue with sugar you may have to take a pause from some of those things to allow your body to naturally reset and really focus on things that don’t have naturally occurring heavy volumes of sugar in them to help you pull back from that sugar that is really calling to your soul, David.

Jaime Martin

We need to get off that rollercoaster. I mean that’s what you’re referring to. It’s like this constant up and down because we go for the next, you know, we want that thrill of being up on top again.

Julie Brown

Right. And unfortunately, caffeine can play a role in that too and combine that with the high-sugar beverages that we have that happen to have both of our favorite things, caffeine and sugar, in one that we start our days with.

Ryan Dodge

I think that it’s difficult for a lot of people though because we . . . I was fortunate enough to work in Europe like I was talking about and they use the metric system and so it was grams really versus ounces. They measure in a whole different way and the recipes are written differently and so oftentimes when we look at what a 20-ounce beverage looks like and then when you look at how many servings does it have but then it says how many grams of sugar that it has, I think that’s it’s really hard for Americans, especially youthful Americans that haven’t spent a lot of time with the metric system, to really even comprehend, even parents to comprehend what 15 grams of sugar looks like. Our youth doesn’t get a ton of education on what grams versus ounces versus tablespoons. 30 grams of sugar, that’s a lot of sugar.

Julie Brown

There’s a phenomenal activity . . .

Ryan Dodge

But I don’t know that I equate that.

Julie Brown

No. There’s a great activity actually that you can do. So, there are four grams of sugar in a teaspoon.

Ryan Dodge

There you go.

Julie Brown

So, if you actually look at . . .

Ryan Dodge

How many people know that?

Julie Brown

Right.

David Freeman

I just found out.

Ryan Dodge

Freeman is taking notes.

Jaime Martin

Start looking at labels.

Ryan Dodge

But how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?

Julie Brown

Right.

Ryan Dodge

Three. But my point is that’s a tablespoon plus a teaspoon.

Julie Brown

Right.

Ryan Dodge

Now I can go.

Julie Brown

But see it’s really interesting. So, I have done this activity with kids before and I used to do it with some of our summer camps and I think it’s a great activity for parents to do to educate their kids because a kid is going to look at a bowl of sugar and not really realize what that is until they actually go wow, this is sweet. Would I sit there and eat that bowl of sugar with a spoon? No. You’re not going to. You’re going to get sick but when you actually take that bowl of sugar and put it into portions that relate to the bowl of cereal that they’re eating, that yogurt that you bought, that particular candy bar that you love so much or that chocolate milk that your kids pick up with their lunch from time to time, and they see what that added sugar looks like in a real quantifiable amount. They start to go, oh. Like it’s a very impactful activity for a lot of kids. I mean you can buy a five-pound bag of sugar for not very much and you can actually do that activity with your family and it’s really powerful.

Jaime Martin

There are so many images of this across social media to where you’ll see like this is here’s what a pound of sugar looks like, here’s what three tablespoons looks like. It’s pretty scary to look at that many times because it’s an eye opener. It’s forcing us to kind of admit that sugar habit.

Ryan Dodge

It’s the palatable thing, right. The sugar is to your point you said addict. Like that’s people prefer the sweet taste versus the bitter taste most oftentimes. They prefer it over the salty taste. Sweet could be . . . is that too sweet? How often do you hear that’s too sweet? You hear a lot less than you hear it . . .

Jaime Martin

Julie says that from time to time, she says.

Julie Brown

Just me.

Ryan Dodge

With food, too. Like tell me, Julie. So, like if I had a, let’s for example, a piece of vegetable or a piece of steak or a piece of chicken or a piece of salmon, there’s sugar there.

Julie Brown

Oh, for sure. There’s naturally occurring sugar in a lot of things.

Ryan Dodge

There’s naturally occurring sugar and so the trick, my trick, is to caramelize those things versus carbonize, right. So, if you were to take a grill for example, when you grill out, and you take those grill marks . . . it’s not like you only get the marks on them because they carbonize those x’s or those diamonds into your meat or whatever it may be but it just enhances, it just burns the sugar that’s occurring on the meat. So, like I’ll take, when you pan sear it and you get that nice golden brown versus that black, now you’re caramelizing your protein. You’re caramelizing. You’re searing your salmon. You’re caramelizing. You’re enhancing the naturally occurring sugars that are happening within the fruits and within the proteins and the vegetables to get this, to enhance the sweetness, to bring it out.

Jaime Martin

And it’s bringing out those flavors that are what are so appealing to us, like wanting more of that.

Julie Brown

I think that’s what a lot of people miss is that there’s flavor. That’s super important and a lot of people look at healthy eating and it’s boring. It doesn’t taste good. I don’t want another salad. But they forget that number one, healthy doesn’t have to be boring. There’s a lot of amazing examples of that on social media and things that you can find recipe wise. If you are even semi decent at using Pinterest you can find so much information out there. But I think it’s really important for people to remember that healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard. It does not have to be difficult. And I think to kind of drawback to something we were talking about earlier, like there a couple of simple steps when it comes to buying fresh produce. There’s a hierarchy of things when it comes to choosing foods but of course fresh is always going to be the best especially if you can get something picked at the peak of its freshness close to home.

Again, you always hear about the importance of locally grown, shopping, spending your dollars local and getting things as close to your region as possible, because again, to what Ryan was saying, the life of that food begins to shorten the longer it is away from the ground. So, if you can purchase that whether it’s a grocery store or farmers’ market, whatever, it it’s a fresh piece of produce . . . I have a couple of rules of thumb that I give to people that I work with. Number one, don’t put it in the crisper drawer when you get home. That is where vegetables go to die. We’ve all found a science experiment in our drawer and go, oh, I totally forgot about that. It’s terrible.

Jaime Martin

You’re forgotten in a drawer. Yes.

Julie Brown

So, don’t put it in the crisper drawer. And number two, have a purpose and an intention for all the pieces that you buy. Don’t just buy it because it looks pretty. Know what recipe you’re using it for or how exactly you’re going to use it in your week and bring it home and prep it as soon as possible because if you take the time to actually wash, chop, prep, put it into the little baggies, it’s going to be that much easier for you to actually use it for yourself, for your kids snacks. It’s going to be that much easier for you to make it into that salad later tonight instead of going, oh, you know what, I don’t really feel like doing that now. So, as much as we talk about grocery shopping being an important thing to schedule into your day or your week, you also need to make sure that you have time to put that food away and get your bounty, your harvest ready for your week the same way we use to when we were actually farming the land.

Jaime Martin

Well, I think the planning aspect right there is key, too. Meal planning is a big issue for a lot of people. How do we make the time to meal plan? I mean you can’t make time, but we could set aside time to do this because if we really want to make some strides for it in terms of how we’re eating, be eating more nutritious foods, planning is a key aspect of that and so I mean, let’s think about this. So, what are some simple like shopping hacks that can help people? I know hacks is a trendy word or whatever. It’s a fun word. It is a fun word. But how can we help make that a simpler for people? What are some tricks that you guys have?

Julie Brown

You started with something that’s actually really important. You’ve got to have something in your schedule. I have people all the time, we see this a lot and you can find it in almost any fitness facility that you went to, people want to meal plan. They want to know exactly how to eat, what to eat and when you really start talking to them and you realize they don’t go grocery shopping on a regular basis. They don’t have a routine and they don’t know how to meal prep.

So, those are some fundamental things that you’ve got to have and I think it’s really important to having a routine during your week or on your weekend. A lot of people will call it the Sunday ritual because that’s the most common time that people will actually shop and meal prep, but a specific time of your week that’s dedicated to preparing your shopping list, going grocery shopping and hopefully having a dedicated timeframe that works for that whether or not your family is with you and actually again bringing that food home and getting it ready for your week whether it is a full on meal prep, which a lot of people like or simply getting some aspects of your ingredients ready to go so that way cooking on Monday night is no longer that difficult. You don’t have to spend 15 to 20 minutes shopping. You did that yesterday. It’s ready to go and you have the opportunity.

When you’re actually physically in the grocery store a lot of grocers do a great job of presenting produce up front which is awesome because that’s where we should all start but half of our plate should be filled with produce, again, another huge opportunity for most of us even if we just took one step in the right direction it should be that. Spending time there and being thoughtful around what items you need to buy fresh versus frozen. I generally discourage going towards canned for a lot of things unless you’re making something very specific that calls for it but I am a huge advocate for leveraging your frozen vegetables and frozen fruits especially if you need those, again, getting what you need. Trying to get what you need for the days or the week ahead and not trying to over buy because then we get into that waste factor.

And then staying around the edge of the store. You start on the edge and it’s great to stay on the edge. Usually your produce section transitions into a bulk section and then possibly into where you’re actually going to pick up your proteins, your meat, whether you’ve got seafood options, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, poultry. You’ve got the opportunity a lot of place now to talk to somebody about where that food came from and how are some opportunities that you can prepare it yourself at home.

And as you continue to make your way around the store, you’ll find eggs and dairy, making sure that you take the opportunity to put the right types of food into your house. Ideally looking for cage-free eggs whenever possible. Pasture-raised is going to really increase the nutrient quality of the yolk, the choline that’s in there, some of the vitamins and minerals, so much better for your body, and again, there’s some great visual examples of that if you look online and even if you try it yourself. A regular, store-bought egg versus one that is actually pasture-raised and those chickens get the opportunity to peck at the ground and eat whatever they want, free-range.

Jaime Martin

They get to eat grasses, bugs and all the real things.

Julie Brown

Yeah. They get to eat real things. It makes a huge difference, and then you can work your way around and if you like to get some great cheeses to accompany your food you can pick those up around the deli section and then if you’re looking at the aisle, really the things you’re looking at in aisles is if you happen to pick up some oils, some oils to help with cooking. Nut butters, those you’re going to find in there, and really maybe some spices. Now I’m not saying don’t buy anything packaged because we all do. We all buy something, right, but just be thoughtful about how you buy those items and how much time you spend in those aisles because it’s a trap. The more time you spend in there the more things you’ll see that pique your interest or things that you’re like, oh, I haven’t had that in a while. It’s really important to go in with a list and stick to it, and please, pretty please, don’t go to the grocery store hungry.

Jaime Martin

I was just going to say that one.

Julie Brown

Your brain wants sugar.

Jaime Martin

I do not go. Also, for me personally, I have two young kids, shopping by myself is the way to go.

Julie Brown

Oh, for sure.

Jaime Martin

Otherwise it’s like can I have this? Can I have this?

Julie Brown

Momma, we need more of this. Momma, we need that. Can we go here?

Ryan Dodge

I wanted to jump in there because I spend a lot of time doing the education with the youth on . . . because they’re intimidated by not just the knife and the board and the pan and the temperature. What temperature and the time, how long? I mean there’s a lot of apprehension and you can read about it. You can watch other people do it but when it’s go time it can a little bit overwhelming, and so you asked about hacks and I would just say there’s a lot of places that have really gotten this figured out where you can go in and you can get the rotisserie chicken.

So, it’s already cooked. It’s already in the container and it’s already organic or free-range and you can choose your battles wherever, what hill you want to die on. If you’re looking for nutrients and if you’re looking to be a hundred percent clean and you’re a hundred percent disciplined then they’re available to you is all I’m saying, and you can go and you can open those up and you can pull that chicken apart and it’s already done. You don’t have to worry about cooking the chicken or overcooking the chicken. So, there’s some of those.

There’s a lot of places that have figured out to already pre-kit your vegetables. They’re already doing it. They’re for sale and they’re kitted already for you, but what I will say is that this is a big piece. You said meal planning and Julie you mentioned it and everyone here knows, we have got a finite amount of time in our busy, busy day and those of us who have responsibilities outside of ourselves have to honor a lot of obligations of your time for others whether it be work, whether it be family, friends, whatever it may be. We’ve got commutes that are involved. If you don’t work from home and you work from a different location you’ve got to commute. You’ve got work and then if you’re trying to get to the fitness facility you’ve got that trip and then you’ve got all the other things that go into life and we’re not even talking about the sleep portion of it yet.

When you talk about hacks there are those hacks and super markets and co-ops and they’re helping you along the way, make it easier and easier all of the time but understanding that cutting your vegetable, the certain size to go with the certain size, a potato smaller with your zucchini a little . . . and then putting it, tossing to the oil perspective with the garlic and the salt and pepper to enhance the flavor, whatever herb or spice you may want to use, having it at that 375 with the broiler set for the last five to give it that extra caramelization, understanding where you can kind of do it all at once and then you can get a big batch of it versus having to meticulously do the potatoes at this time for this amount.

Getting comfortable and doing some I would say any hack you get comes from trial and error. So, don’t be apprehensive. You’re going to figure out what taste you like, how you prefer it because everyone is different. Being a chef, I get to experience that first hand. I like it like this. Well, good. I like it like that. Awesome. It would nice to know that upfront. Those things you own and you control and we’re all different in that capacity, right, and our comfort zone and our equipment is different. Not everybody has gas versus electric. I try and avoid the microwave as much as I can when it comes to that stuff but the microwave with eggs, I mean that’s a quick hack, right. You can souffle an egg in a microwave pretty, in 45 seconds. You don’t even have to get the pan out depending on what vessel you have. I mean there’s just a ton of different quick and convenient easy things you can purchase already prepared for you at the grocery store these days.

Jaime Martin

Right. One thing, Julie, I know I’ve heard you talk about in the past is your frozen vegetables and we talk a lot and we’re going to have to talk about veggies probably by themselves in a whole other episode at some point, but you talk about your veggie, frozen veggie hack and how you get more veggies into your day. Can you talk about that just a little bit?

Julie Brown

Yeah. So, I know that the meal that I realistically have the most control over is my lunch as weird as that sounds because I am eating at work and I would say 85, 90 percent of the time I’m bringing something from home which is a great thing to start doing if you’re not doing it. It saves you money and you’re absolutely in the ability to control at least one of your meals and really make sure that what it is, is wholesome for you. So, I have gotten, I’ll call it healthy-lazy, lately because again, healthy doesn’t have to be hard. I buy a lot of bags of frozen vegetables and most of them are made to be like a family-size serving if you make it. Well, I just eat the whole thing.

So, I microwave it in our breakroom at work and then I just dump into a bowl, put some grass-fed butter and some sea salt on it and I usually put some protein with it. It might be some high-quality nitrate-free deli meat. It might be some precooked chicken like you were talking about, those deboned rotisserie chickens that you can pick up at the grocery store. It might be something that I had left over. But I’m literally just putting it a bowl and mixing it up. The grass-fed butter, super nutrient rich. It’s great for your gut health believe it or not with the butyric acid that’s in it and it’s really tasty. I mean, who doesn’t like having a little butter with their lunch? I mean, really. And I’m getting probably three solid fist-size servings of vegetables in one meal and I know I’m walking away feeling satisfied because I’ve got some fats coming in from my butter and a ton of fiber coming in from my vegetables coupled with some protein. It feels like a really cohesive meal that doesn’t take me hardly any time at all because I’m literally just picking those vegetables out of the fridge every day and throwing them into my lunch bag and then throwing it all together in one bowl at work, which is awesome.

Ryan Dodge

There’s also some, correct me if I’m wrong but there’s also a lot of conversation around a lot of those vegetables that are frozen are actually retaining their . . . and actually potentially better for you than fresh. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about this over the years. What’s your take on that?

Julie Brown

Most of the time. He’s asking the questions now. I like it.

Ryan Dodge

I’m just so confused.

Jaime Martin

I think it’s good.

Julie Brown

I like this. Got some good back and forth going. I’m a big fan because a lot of times and when you really look into the freezer aspect of things, things are picked, like you mentioned, at the peak of freshness or close to it and again, because they’re picked hopefully close to where they’re going to be processed they are going to be what’s called flash frozen and because of that flash freezing process you’re actually locking in nutrients that are in that current state of the growth cycle and it’s going to retain those until they’re actually cooked, and again, that’s a whole different topic we can do in the vegetable episode about cooking methods and how to retain different nutrient profiles vegetable to vegetable but again, I’m a big fan of the steam in the microwave because you’re not leaching the nutrients out into a separate water. They’re not evaporating anywhere. They’re actually just cooking in their own natural moister that’s in there.

David Freeman

The big takeaway is that I heard from both you guys so obviously experience is your best teacher. You said the trial and error going through it and then what I would say is dedicating the time and what people usually have as the reason why they’re not able to is because they don’t have the time. So, when we break it down, you’ve heard me say this before, Jaime, as far as how many hours within a week, and when we break it down, I know that you kind of referenced it Dodge, with your commute, your sleep, your work. When you take all that away from that 168, even activities with kids, you have a great amount of time still left. When I say great amount that could be eight hours and then I’ll ask this question, how long does it take to actually prep for a week, and let’s say you’re inexperienced versus experienced. Obviously the more you do it the better you’re going to get with it. So, how long does it usually take to meal prep?

Ryan Dodge

I don’t go to the same school. I know people that are able to eat the same thing every day or for a week or for three days even but I also know that because everything is so readily available, we’ve built a lot of habits around spontaneity. What do I feel like today? And there’s also that oh, man, a lot of people are able to talk themselves into rewarding behavior, like whatever it may be. So, I deserve to this or that or whatever. Meal planning for a week for me seems absurd. I don’t want chicken Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I want to break it up and I want to try something different so I like to mix it up. So also, it’s tough because like you said, a week on Sunday till next Sunday am I eating brown rice, sweet potatoes and broccoli and chicken all week. I’m not. There’s no way.

Julie Brown

I think you’re hitting on that very traditional aspect of what we see a lot of times if you’re looking at meal prepping, maybe on Instagram and you see the 17 containers of food that all have the same portion sized out and I kind of approach it . . . nothing wrong with that. If that works well for you, you should do it, but I kind of take a different approach. I’m kind of on the same school of thought as you, is I don’t mind eating leftovers, but I want that to be part of my plan. So, a lot of times when I go to the grocery store I’m buying the things that I need for my lunches, whatever I’m choosing to have for lunch that week and a lot of times if it’s something I need to make ahead I’ll probably make it ahead and like Sunday I’ll use it for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then I might cook something small again to make it the rest of the week, but my focus is do I have what I need for my lunches and then what are me and my family going to have for our dinners this week.

And a lot of times our dinner planning is two to three different things. And usually one of them is very easy because there’s always one night during the week regardless of how many activities your family is involved in or not, that you just don’t want to cook, right. We all have that week. It’s either Tuesday or Wednesday. We know, it’s Tuesdays, right. But again, that’s where you go OK. So, you bring up tacos. We do those a lot at my house. It’s just a matter of if we’re going to do tacos this week, great. Do we want beef? Do we want chicken? What all do I need for my tacos? And if I buy this much of these ingredients, I know I can get three meals out of it. OK. That takes me Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Wednesday might be my easy night. Thursday we’re going to go out because that’s the night we go out as a family and then I just need to make sure I have something for Friday, Saturday before I go grocery shopping again. So, I need one more meal that I can get one meal plus a night of leftovers.

That’s how I think and then all I do is fill in the gaps. What does my week look like, how much food do we need and then I go what sounds good this week? What haven’t we had in a while? We have kind of our standbys, like I call them like our favorite eight to 10 things that we make. Oh, we haven’t had that in a while. Oh, it’s getting cooler again. We can have that meal that we love, right, or what do we have access to that we haven’t seen in a while. Oh, we’re going to make that again. So, it’s just a little bit of a different way of thinking about it and again, I don’t meal prep in the traditional sense but more so in the what do I need for my lunches and what do we want as a family for our meals this week.

Ryan Dodge

Yeah. You make it sound so easy when you talk about it.

Julie Brown

Lots of reps.

Ryan Dodge

I was just going to say it’s rep. I was just going to say that trial and error also comes with repetition. I know that food preparation and the results that people are trying to get through that healthy way of life can become super discouraging for people because they don’t either have the reps. That’s not their expertise so it’s kind of like they’re again intimidated but it also I know from my experience people throw in the towel on that whole thing pretty quickly because it’s too damn . . .

Julie Brown

It’s hard. It’s really hard.

Ryan Dodge

I want the spontaneity to have pizza tonight.

Julie Brown

Right. I’m a big fan. I love pizza and you should have it when you want it. You should. And again, sometimes you might make the choice to do a healthier version of pizza, cauliflower crust. I love pizza on a portobello mushroom cap. Like these pizza alternatives and sometimes you just want a slice of good old pizza and it’s OK.

Jaime Martin

Well, it’s the 80/20 thing.

Julie Brown

Yeah. As long as that particular thing doesn’t make you sick. As long as it’s not something that’s wrong for your body for varying reasons. If it’s something that you want, I’m a firm believer that you should allow yourself to have it. I don’t think foods are good and bad. So, foods don’t have feelings, right. They don’t. We don’t want to classify them as that but we do that all the time. I mean even recently people are classifying foods as “red” and “green” and these apps that are coming out for kids and that’s not a thing that we should be teaching. It’s hey, if this is something that you want here’s what an appropriate portion size of that looks like and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a slice to two of pizza and a really great serving of vegetables to go with it to balance it out. The problem is we don’t usually just have pizza. We have wings and beer, all the things with it. So, it’s the balance and you brought it up, Jaime, 80 percent. I’m a huge advocate for figuring out how to live in the 80 percent healthy range and allow yourself to be 20 percent human. Like the things you want, if you want to have a little ice cream, do the real stuff.

Ryan Dodge

Whole fat. Yeah.

Julie Brown

Do the real stuff and just have a small portion that works for you and eat it slow. Enjoy every bite and I promise you that will be more fulfilling than eating an entire pint of protein-heavy, non-dairy, fake ice cream. It will. So much more satisfying.

David Freeman

Well, something you both said and obviously I learned through experience on this is when you are constantly eating the same thing over and over again you can build a sensitivity to it. So, having some tests done, that’s the irony of it through that experience whether it was eggs or peanut butter or a protein that you’re taking as far as a shake, that’s so crazy. We become creatures of habits but that’s why variety is so key. So, why does the sensitivity build up over time?

Julie Brown

It’s a good question and it’s important to recognize because we do tend to go in those cyclical patterns of eating the things that we’re comfortable with and going along the flow of what we see other people who are influencers or health promoters doing, but if you’re consistently introducing the same food over and over to your system you can build up an intolerance to it. It is one of those things that unfortunately does happen from time to time and just because a food is healthy, — eggs, chicken, spinach, you name it — doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you. And that might be seasonal too. It might just be in the season or phase of your life that it’s not healthy for you.

So, there’s a couple of important things to recognize there. Obviously, we used to eat very seasonally and we had access to different things through different portions of the year, try to honor that as much as possible. Eat different things at different times of the year and I don’t just mean cold versus hot with seasons. Like eat different things and allow your body to have breaks or rest time from eating the same thing every single day. If you love eggs, eggs are one I see people have sensitivity to all the time. If you love eggs, that’s great but it doesn’t mean you need to eat them every day. Sometimes you might just do egg whites. Sometimes you might do hardboiled eggs. Sometimes you might not do eggs at all.

So, I think the key is balance and having things intermittently throughout your weeks and through your years to make sure that you’re not putting yourself at risk, because again, if you only have access to one thing, we’re in a little bit of a different situation, but we don’t. Most of us have access to so much variety and we’ve got to ask ourselves to just try one thing differently, to explore one opportunity and if you’re in a space where you’re thinking about food sensitivities or asking questions about how to eat healthier, you’re in a great mindset to say, if I just chose one thing to do differently and committed to doing that one thing differently this week, you could see massive change over time. We again, we’ve talked about it a couple of different times, there’s so much information and then we think we’ve got to dive in head first and do it all or it’s not good enough but if you just adopted one habit and said, hey, I noticed I don’t feel super great when I eat this food, maybe just don’t eat if for a week and see how you feel.

As silly as that might sound but there’s a lot of people who would just keep on eating it because they know it, it’s comfortable and they like it but if you just challenged yourself to do one thing differently whether it’s to eliminate that food, go to the grocery store on Sundays, you know, try that new sparkling water that everybody is raving about but you hate water. Like whatever it is, right. It’s one thing different that you can push yourself to do for seven days. It’ll start to catch on and you’ll start to build on that as you want to get more curious about how you can lead a healthier lifestyle.

Jaime Martin

Well, I think that’s a great way to wrap up this first episode and we have many more topics that you guys are going to have to come back and cover with us. Before we wrap up, we have a question for each of you to answer. So, obviously this is a healthy living podcast, we want to know a little bit about what is one of two of your healthy living habits that is just a nonnegotiable, that you have to do in your life?

Julie Brown

It’s my grocery shopping. Like if I go somewhere over the weekend, everybody gets all excited about going to the cabin and going to do their things. I’m like, when do I get to come home and get myself setup for my week, right. Like if I don’t get to go grocery shopping literally my whole week feels off and I find myself . . .  I have to take advantage of the LifeCafe when I don’t have my lunch because it’s a great resource that I have, but I want to have my lunch, right. Like I want to go to the grocery store, pick all my things up and get those. So, usually whenever something is off that’s one of my first like reset tools is get my groceries on and then get myself setup for the week. So, that would probably be the best answer.

Jaime Martin

How about for you, Ryan?

Ryan Dodge

I like to be fueled through the entire day because at two o’clock, at three o’clock I start to fall . . . if I don’t, I find myself really falling off, right, the edge. I’m not as sharp. I’m not as quick. So, I like to stay productive throughout the entirety of the day and I like to have that sustained energy. So, I really like to make sure . . . I think it’s tough for people to eat throughout the day. I think people blow their entire day in one meal a lot and they’ll save it for the end of the day and so I think it’s really important to really balance the amount throughout the entirety of the day and we do a lot of supplementing with I really have become a huge fan of the shake, the protein shake and when I get it and what’s in it.

So, for me those places and those times when I get that crave because it’s all the time, for me it’s really important to look at food differently as a fuel and the nourishment piece of it that we talk about. I look at food as fuel now and I need it all throughout the day and not just a big breakfast. Not just a big meal here or a big meal there, and so it’s about . . . when I’m eating, I don’t ever want to feel full and I’ll know if I do because of the ingredients that I’m eating, like you’ll feel, a healthy meal you’ll feel energized versus sluggish after that and I’m very sensitive to how I feel after I eat. So, I think that, that would probably for me daily I cherish.

David Freeman

Well, there you have it. Thank you for today.

Julie Brown

Thank you, guys. I’m already excited about the next time.

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life, what works for you, where do you run into challenges, where do you need help.

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life or reach out to us on Instagram @lifetime.life, @jamiemartinel, or @freezy30 and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at experiencelife.com/podcast.

David Freeman

And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. Feel free to write a review and also let others know about it, too. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it on social or share it with your friends, family, work buddies, life coach, you get the gist.

Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks.

Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time — Healthy Way of Life. It is produced by Molly Schelper with audio engineering by Peter Perkins and sound consulting by Coy Larson. A big thank you to the team who pulls together each episode and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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